Ketanji Brown Jackson confirmed to U.S. Supreme Court

Clark, Greene counties celebrate historic confirmation of nation’s first Black woman justice

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s historic appointment to the United States Supreme Court on Thursday symbolizes how far the country has come in terms of race and gender equity.

However, her confirmation — which passed mostly along party lines — as the first Black woman on the nation’s highest court moves the country closer to a ‘more perfect union,’ and she will be a role model for all young women. As an associate justice, Jackson will bring a different perspective to the court, local experts and community leaders say.

“That’s extraordinarily important,” said Staci Rhine, a political science professor at Wittenberg University. “Both African American, but also a woman. It’s amazing to see more women on the court, and this is relatively recent. Just the presence of women is another symbolic visual for other people, for young women, for young African Americans to imagine themselves as judges someday.”

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Staci Rhine

Staci Rhine

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Staci Rhine

Jackson will replace Justice Stephen Breyer, who announced in January that he will retired at the end of the 2021-22 term.

AlthoughJackson will likely vote similarly to Breyer, and thus a change in voting patterns may not occur within the court, the qualifications of the 51-year-old judge are impressive and carry significance, Rhine said.

“She’s extraordinarily well-qualified,” Rhine said. “She’s above and beyond, and has to have reached a higher standard to have done this: She’s been at the district court. She’s been at the appellate court. She’s practiced. Really an extraordinary resume and a diverse background.”

Area leaders and community activists voiced excitement this week in regard to Jackson’s appointment.

Denise Williams, president of the Springfield chapter of the NAACP

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“I’m celebrating because I’m alive to see a Black female judge. This has never happened. She’s an example for all of us, for all women. What she taught me is endurance under pressure: I’m not sure if I would have held myself together like she did. When I watched her, I’m like ‘Ok, I can be that way.’ She has made me so proud. The doors are opened, and this is giving a message to young Black girls coming up. Not ‘You can be somebody,’ but ‘You are somebody.’ Stand in your purpose and endure in your purpose… that’s what she’s showing women.”

Jack Thomas, president of Central State University

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Jack Thomas

Jack Thomas

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Jack Thomas

“This is a proud moment in history. Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson is the daughter of two graduates of Historically Black Colleges and Universities. As a Black woman member of the highest court in the land, this confirmation moves this country to a more ‘perfect union’ positioning the United States Supreme Court to reflect the tapestry of this country more.”

Patty Young, business owner of Young Hair Inc.

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Patty Young

Patty Young

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Patty Young

“I’m very excited, because I feel we people of color are represented. She’s more than qualified to have that position. Most women are for this: all races. And as a hairstylist, watching her with her natural hair made me even more proud. When you think of any organization, you’ve got to be ‘in the room.’ With her being there… we’re in the room. We’re going to pay more attention to what’s being said and what’s being done.”

Sheila Rice, Clark County Municipal Court clerk

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Sheila Rice

Sheila Rice

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Sheila Rice

“To me, what’s exciting is that she’s a woman. There’s a thread that binds us as women. And because she’s an African American woman, I’m even more excited. I think it’s important to be able to see everybody’s views… and you can’t do that without diversity. She’s done everything in the legal realm you can do. When you have diversity that’s visible, it makes people realize there are choices. Diversity and inclusion makes everything about us better.”

Leeza Wheeler, Springfield High School junior and member of the local mock trial team

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Leeza Wheeler

Leeza Wheeler

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Leeza Wheeler

“I think it’s very exciting. She is so well-qualified for this position, and she’s dedicated her life to public service. Something I think that’s very notable is that she was a public defender, so she knows the criminal justice system and she knows the inner-workings. It’s inspiring to me to see somebody who came from a public high school and really carved her own path. Her appointment I think shows the possibility of what this nation can be. Adding people to the court who look like America is something that’s been so needed for such a long time. Her story will continue to inspire future generations.”

Natalie Coles, vice president for advancement and chief development officer at Wilberforce University

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Natalie Coles

Natalie Coles

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Natalie Coles

“I’m very excited. Her presence has been such an amazing and remarkable moment for African Americans, but I think that the larger win is really for the nation. Anytime we have diversity of thought at the table, it’s a win for all Americans. As African Americans, everywhere we go we bring our experiences. We’re still, as a nation, overcoming systemic oppression that African Americans have been dealing with for centuries. Her having that experience, and bringing her whole self, to the role will really impact how cases are heard, how that body operates. One of the moments that brought me to tears [during Brown Jackson’s testimony] was when she gave her experience at Harvard and when she walked the yard, and another Black woman looked her in the eyes and said ‘persevere.’ And just in that moment, I think she summed up the sentiment of our nation, given the pandemic, given the George Floyd crisis we just lived through. We have got to persevere.”

Lawrence Burnley, former vice president for diversity and inclusion at the University of Dayton and current chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer for Shaker Heights Schools near Cleveland.

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Lawrence Burnley

Lawrence Burnley

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Lawrence Burnley

“As he stood on the campus of the University of Dayton on November 29, 1964, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was asked by a reporter about his thoughts about the state of race relations in the U.S. In response, Dr. King said in part, ‘We’ve come a long, long way but we have a long, long way to go.’ Today, as we struggle to navigate and overcome the fear-driven violence of those seeking to sustain their positions of abusive power and privilege, justice-loving people have been given an injection of hope in the news that Ketanji Brown Jackson has become the first African American woman confirmed to the Supreme Court. (On Thursday), we receive a gift of hope and affirmation of Dr. King’s prophetic proclamation that ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.’ We press on!”

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